We hope that you are enjoying the blog series by Pivot for the upcoming #HRTechFest2017. This blog @HRTechFest’s topic: Building and Communicating a Compelling HR Innovation Business Case.
The Power of Technology
Accenture claims that we should “use the power of technology to improve our world”. Technology exists to benefit us and adoption rates reflect this. According to Bersin, there are over 150 million employees using cloud-based HR systems around the world. Yet, many companies are lagging when it comes to investing in HR technology. I ponder why?
I am writing this blog from my own personal journey in HR, particularly from a sales perspective, selling technology. To give you some background, I studied Human Resources Management at university in the early 2000’s and though I did not end up in the chosen profession, I believe in my heart that this people centric role is to help evolve the business by empowering its people.
Why the Resistance?
In my sales role, I have been lucky to have met some strong leaders who are passionate about the people part and have a strong desire to make a difference via automation. Unfortunately, I also get to witness the struggles of HR folk in implementing such a change. HR technology is often categorised as a cost to the business that requires justification of spend. In contrast, their fellow peers in marketing appear to have bigger budgets to create creative ad campaigns etc. The difference appears to be that one is viewed as a revenue building exercise while the other is considered a capital or operational expenditure without any tangible P & L benefit.
It is very common to see budget funding for technology projects either not approved or moved from one year to the next, leaving People Operations with no option but to continue to manage processes manually. ROI Calculators and white paper on creating a business case can help HR in their business presentations. Sometimes, these tools are very handy when the objective is to save resource time (System Administration and Decision-Making Managers time). At other times, it takes more than time savings to justify the value of automation.
Below are some sales tips that can assist the People Leaders in pitching the adoption of HR technology at your company. This methodology can reap great rewards in engaging the powers-that be like a sales pro!
1. Understand what is the driver for the business?
Often, technology purchase decisions can come down to the different personas of the decision makers and influencers within a company – what is in it for each of them. The project manager in the HR team can start the information gathering process internally before engaging a technology vendor. Preliminary work involves understanding:
- Who are the parties that will need to sign off the spend?
- Is this expenditure coming from IT, Finance, HR or some other budget?
- What is the process – do these stakeholders need to see vendor demonstrations?
- What are the individual’s key needs in their roles?
- What are their individual challenges or pain points?
It may be easy to assume that the shared vision of all stakeholders would be cost and time savings. However, the ROI for a HR technology implementation should not be measured just in dollar terms. Its impact is much more than that. For example,
- What is the value of empowering managers?
- What is the benefit of simplifying business processes?
- Where does “being ready for innovation” take the business?
- What does the use of technology vs manual processes do for your employment brand?
- What is the value for reducing risk?
- Is enhancing compliance a priority?
- When you are building a culture of accountability, how does that add to your bottom line?
2. Create affiliations
IT is one department that you will need to create a relationship with. After all, technology is their area of expertise. There have been numerous publications by Bersin that provide reasons why HR and IT need to work together, so I won’t go on about the benefit of this affiliation. We find that if IT is not driving the project, they will want to at least check the security and stability of the solution. It is also good to find out how the product is best accessed by staff– via Single Sign On or via username/password like your network settings. At times HR teams may feel that building a system from scratch internally may be an idea. This is when you need to ask yourselves:
- Is building your own system the best strategy forward?
- Should IT spend time on building and maintaining internal HR systems or your company products?
- How quick can they turn the build around? What is the internal capability like? What if these IT team members leave the company in the middle of the project?
- What is the cost of building that system inhouse?
- What is the cost of maintaining that system inhouse?
- What is the IT team’s capacity in maintaining and supporting your system?
- What happens after Year 1, when process changes? Do you rebuild another system?
We all know in the business world, life changes, restructures happen and HR needs to be agile in their policies and processes to reflect and adapt very quickly. Staying focussed on giving your employees a good user experience is extremely important. Bersin studies also promote the concept of design thinking. For your employees to embrace any technology, usability is extremely important. A specialist technology vendor spends a lot of R&D dollars to maintain and update their product to maintain its viability in the market. You don’t want to build something from scratch that sits in your closet because no one is using it. You don’t want to bring the old spreadsheets and word documents back in to play again either. This can sometimes happen if the software is difficult to use. User experience is king they say!
3. Keep it real in your research
Most clients these days do a quick Google search of solution providers and organise numerous meetings and demonstrations with vendors to see which ones get the most ticks against their criteria list. Some also consult external research reports and pick a few without doing any further homework on vendor fit. Whilst secondary research is good in understanding the technical requirements, I encourage you to keep it real by using the power of networks. The real research comes handy when you are speaking with ‘fellow peeps’ who perhaps have gone through a similar journey to you. For example, you read from a report that this big US vendor does everything and you may think it’s good to have just one supplier. Now, question yourself, how realistic is that for your business?
- Will this integrated vendor: “Jack of all trades, Master of none” really deliver on functionality, time and budget for all needs? If not, where do you want to compromise and why?
- Is it important to you that you deal end-to-end with the supplier of the software?
- Are you ok dealing with a third party “implementation partner” of this supplier, who may be unaware of the conversations and commitments made during the sales process?
- What are your peers saying about their support experience?
- Are your peers still using spreadsheets or manual processes despite buying all the bells and whistles from this vendor?
- Is this vendor able to configure for Australasian needs? Believe it or not, Australia and New Zealand do things differently to the USA.
So, informal references can provide that insight that formal references do not. Let’s face it, no technology vendor will provide you with the references of their problem clients.
4. Let the vendor do the hard yards
It may seem appealing to take control and present your two shortlisted suppliers to the executive team. However, another option is to partner with the vendors and let the vendors do a quick demonstration. As a project manager, what you need to supply the vendors with are the drivers of the decisions makers. Vendors come across numerous objections in their sales lives that you may not be familiar with. So, delegation would suit you well here.
5. ‘Close’ at every step by checking-in
You are selling a new idea to your business: the idea of automating a HR/people function, the idea of making a difference in your employee’s lives and the idea of creating an impact to the business. You are in fact going to be that pioneer that ended the era of spreadsheets flying around and mail merges creating headaches. Let those old nightmares have a peaceful rest. So, you are that internal sales person who is bringing not just a new tool but a new way of doing things. In every ‘sales interaction’, there are objections, so closing at every step is essential. It simply means to remove every objection that may act as a barrier to move forward. Your great listening skills comes in handy here – address what your stakeholders are objecting to and why. A good sales person also educates with empathy. This is in your HR blood so use that ability and close those objections effectively at every step.
You are now ready to create that compelling business case, because you are speaking the language your stakeholders use. Your proposition is about solving their problems and addressing their needs rather than yours. You are relating the business objectives with people focus using technology. You have tied in all facets together and indeed you have become a champion sales person internally!
Stay tuned for our next blog series for the #HRTechFest2017 and please feel free to share your comments on how you found these sales tips for HR.